US military plans Iraq pullout if 'surge' fails

Iraqi soldiers move into British base in Basra as they prepare to take responsibility for security in area.

US military plans Iraq pullout if 'surge' fails

Pentagon planners have begun work on a fallback position forIraqthat includes a phased pullout of US troops in case the current"surge" strategy fails or is undercut by Congress, The Los AngelesTimes reported Monday.

The "surge" proposed in January by PresidentGeorge W. Bush calls for sending 21,500 additional combat troops and severalthousand more support forces in order to pacify Baghdad and other key parts of the country.

But citing unnamed military officials and Pentagonconsultants, the newspaper said the alternative strategy was based in part onthe US experience in El Salvador inthe 1980s.

During the 1981-1992 El Salvador civil war, the United Statesdeployed 55 Green Berets to aid the Salvadoran military in its fight againstleftist rebels.

The report said that some historians believed that theirpresence had helped the United Statesto gradually professionalize the Salvadoran army and curb its abuses whileavoiding a large-scale USmilitary involvement.

A drawdown of forces in Iraq, The Times said, would be inline with comments made last month by Defense Secretary Robert Gates. He toldCongress that if the "surge" failed, the backup plan would includemoving troops "out of harm's way."

Such a plan would also be close to the recommendations ofthe Iraq Study Group, of which Gates was a member before his appointment to thePentagon, the paper said.

"This part of the world has an allergy against foreignpresence," the report quotes a senior Pentagon official as saying of Iraq.

"You have a window of opportunity that is relativelyshort. Your ability to influence this with a large US force eventually gets tothe point that it is self-defeating."

The new round of planning is taking place in an atmosphereof extraordinary tension within the Pentagon, The Times said.

Some support the new commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, whoadvocates using more US forces. Others back General John Abizaid, the retiringCentral Command chief, who favored handing over security responsibilities toIraqis.

Meanwhile, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Peter Pacehas made several references to El Salvador in recent congressional hearingsand private Pentagon meetings, The Times said.

The senior Pentagon official said Pace's repeated referenceswere a signal that in the chairman's view, success in Iraq might not depend onmore combat troops, according to the report.

Iraqi soldiers move into British base

Iraqi soldiers have raised their flag above a British basein the southern city of Basraas they prepare to take responsibility for security in the area, the militarysaid on Monday.

Elements of the 10th Division of the Iraqi Army have joinedtheir British colleagues from the Staffordshire Regiment in the Shatt al-ArabHotel, a town centre stronghold which comes under frequent militia mortarattack.

In the coming weeks and months British troops are to pullout of two bases inside Basra and a logisticscentre outside the city, in order to concentrate their force at a singlecompound at Basraairport.

British troops will also continue to protect the consulatelocated in central Basra.

The 7,200-strong force is to be reduced by at least 1,500 bythe end of August and could be cut by up to half by the end of the year.Meanwhile, the locally-recruited 10th division will fill the gaps.

"The first elements of the Iraqi Army's 10th Divisionmoved in the middle of least week. There is an Iraqi flag flying over the Shattal-Arab hotel," British army spokesman Major David Gell said.

"This is another important step for the Iraqi army asthey develop their capabilities and gradually take more responsibility fortheir own security.

"It is pleasing that the move went so smoothly andoffers encouraging signs for the future as everybody continues down the roadtowards Iraqi self reliance," he added.

Basra is Iraq's secondcity and the hub of the country's oil industry.

The British force's four-year-old mission to pacify the cityhas been hampered by armed clashes between rival tribes and political Shiitemilitias, the brutality and corruption of the local police and insurgentattacks.

At least 132 British soldiers have died since the March 2003invasion led by US and British forces and their bases still come under almostdaily mortar or rocket attack.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16